Letter: College Student Says City of Antioch Still Beautiful

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Dear Editor,

As a lifelong resident of Antioch, memories from my younger years take place all over the city. Some are at Holy Rosary, going to mass and playing kickball with my friends as a child. Others are in the gymnasiums of Antioch High School and Deer Valley playing basketball, or taking walks with my family out to Contra Loma in the evenings. When I look back at these times I see nothing but happiness and contentment.

But surely, there must have been a time in my life when I stopped viewing Antioch through rose colored glasses, because by the time I graduated from Dozier Libbey Medical High School in 2015, I was itching to get away. Somehow, and without realizing it, I had assumed the collective and prevailing attitude that Antioch was a lost cause.

As I got older, I was becoming aware of the crimes and problems in our city. My parents would often advise me against going to the gas station after certain times at night. It was common practice, for me and my family, to see movies in other cities because we felt that the theatre near our house was unsafe. Certain streets in town were to be avoided, and alternate routes were always in the back of my mind when driving.

Other cities began to look more attractive to me, especially when it came time to pick a college, and my desire to get out was at an all time high. Not wanting to move too far away from my family, I chose to attend UC Berkeley, a choice which I imagined would allow me to escape my roots and get away from the city that everyone thrashed.

But, at the ripe age of 21 it was made clear to me that the allure of getting out of Antioch and moving on to ‘bigger and better things’  wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as it had initially appeared. My time in Berkeley, not just at the school but in the city, too, was mixed. The prestige of UC Berkeley as an institution, coupled with my new found independence and the excitement that comes with being somewhere new, made for a rather picturesque, but not entirely accurate image.

All of the things I had grown accustomed to disliking, or seeing as negative, about Antioch were not only present in Berkeley, but often amplified. Take, for instance, the issue of homelessness. While it is not uncommon to see homeless people in Antioch, to me, it is nothing compared to People’s Park and the surrounding areas. Never before had I been followed and hollered at in Antioch, but within a few weeks of being in Berkeley it had happened several times.

After having spent a few months away, Antioch had suddenly, in my mind, acquired a shiny newness. When I came home for an occasional weekend visit, or during breaks from school, the small details I noticed about my hometown were refreshing.

Alexandra Riva

Instead of the tall buildings and tight, busy streets of Berkeley, Antioch gave me the Delta, Contra Loma and the Lone Tree Golf Course, which appeared sprawling and beautiful by comparison.  The plethora of small coffee shops in Berkeley offer a hip aesthetic, but they don’t compare to the restaurants in Antioch that are full of memories and comfort. Going to the Catholic Church in Berkeley even had a different feeling, because when I looked around I didn’t see the faces of people I had grown up with.

Perhaps I have attached a certain brand of nostalgia to Antioch, that all hometowns eventually assume when one has been gone for a while and the prospect of leaving becomes a possibility. Now I wonder what I wanted to get away from in the first place.

The fact of the matter is that Antioch is not a perfect city, but in the same vein, neither is Berkeley; nor is Brentwood, or Pittsburg, or Concord. Each city has its own unique host of problems, and simply moving away from them, doesn’t solve them. Complaining about where I lived, I realized, would get me nowhere. Residents of Antioch must learn to accept the city for what it is and strive to make it better instead of absentmindedly picking it apart or moving away.

While Antioch may never again be the small town it was when my parents were going up here, the Antioch we have before us today is special and beautiful, we just simply need to be reminded of this.

Alexandra Riva,
Antioch Resident & UC Berkeley Student

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19 COMMENTS

  1. This City could be beautiful, but its not at the moment. Youre 21, so you really havent seen first hand what this City use to be like. Those of us around 40, know the downhill changes this City has become since our youth living here. And I’m not really sure why you thought Berkeley would be so nice, thats gone downhill and the homeless migrate there, just like Antioch. Deer Valley High School being built before the houses were built here, is what killed this city. The greed of the City to open the school, resulted in bussing kids in from Oakland and Richmond, and look how that turned out for us. I understand youre trying to be positive, but as someone who has lived here all my life, its hard to see things getting better here.

  2. I wish I shared your perspective, but the problems and my experiences in this town over the course of 21 years, has deadened my enthusiasm. But best of luck to you..

  3. I went to college in Berkeley in 1960-1962. Not CAL unfortunately but that really doesn’t matter. Actually it was a beautiful city. We went to the theater in Berkeley last year and we will never set foot in Berkeley again. We bought our first house in Antioch in 1965 and are still here over 50 years later. We have always loved Antioch and the river. We have three generations here now. Unfortunately the city took a terrible turn about 10 years ago and still no one is paying attention. I don’t believe there was ever any bussing of children it was the natural progression of lower income folks finding places they could rent in Antioch. 40 % of Antioch has been rentals the past few years roughly. That continues because Antioch does nothing to help itself.
    Alexandra, I am happy you wrote because you show us there is still hope for Antioch though many will disagree, including me some of the time. I hope there are many more like you soon to take my place.

        • We need facts in written statements from the school district saying that in fact they did this. That is the only way it could have been done.

      • No, your bussing statement is not factual. Facts require empirical evidence to support them, and this Antioch myth was debunked with empiral evidence years ago.

    • I work in the Sycamore Corridor, and prices are crazy here. The good thing is, that its changing who is able to rent/own here. Over the past few years, a lot of the riff-raff has moved on to the valley, and good people are moving in. Also, the ratio of investor owners to resident owners is changing fast. Years ago, banks wouldn’t give loans in the sycamore corridor, which means it was predominately cash investor owners. Now that things have changed, the banks are giving loans out, and a single condo on Lemontree/Peppertree is now going for 200k. With that change, investor owners have made a lot of money and are selling to resident owners. There are nurses, military members, 2 firefighters, and many other great hard working people down here now. I guess where I’m getting is that it not the place it was twenty years ago, but its a ton better then it was 10 years ago.

      What is crazy, is that I watch these dirt bags arrive at 9 in the morning, park their car, and then just meander around all day selling drugs. With a heavy police/law enforcement/security presence, its still an uphill battle.

      Antioch just needs to stay away from high density housing….it not and never has been a good idea.

  4. Kudos for being a voice of, Hope! I am in my 40’s and have grown up in this area as well. So, while a negative point of view could be understood so is the power of positivity. Keep your head up and know that a spirit such as yours can Spark the change we need!

  5. Alexandra, you had the one moment in time to see the past and the future at the same time. A very rear epiphany. You see the future of Antioch while attending college at Berkeley. But what is worse, Antioch will never obtain nor hold the educated and businesses Berkeley still enjoys today. A sad reflection of our time.

  6. Thanks for your letter, Alexandra. It is so nice to hear from a resident who actually has something positive to say about our city. Antioch is a beautiful city with rolling hills, beautifully landscaped streets and businesses, good weather and a lot of wonderful hard-working people and families. Yes, there are problems. We are working together with our present city government trying to solve them. All cities have problems. The important thing is for our citizens to speak up about what is good in Antioch, instead of constantly complaining and apologizing for living in Antioch. Changing our attitudes will change our perceptions and hopefully spur us on to work toward what is right for Antioch.

  7. Why did my post get deleted? I posted nothing inappropriate, nothing hateful, nothing mean. Just my opinion, like this letter is an opinion.

  8. I work at Deer Valley and the perception issue continues to hurt our community. While there are problems at our school like any other, I grow tired of people wincing whenever I tell them where I work. I tell the, it has been years since I’ve seen a fight and in my elective classes I haven’t even written a referral for years. We have some remarkable students and teachers at DVHS. My students have used space probes and won science fairs and many have gone on to become engineers and doctors and scientists and nurses. When you bad mouth your own community you aren’t helping the problem, you’re contributing to it. Try visiting our public planetarium or going to a play or chaperone a dance or go to a homecoming carnival. Meet the kids and teachers. I’m not saying there aren’t problems. But having a positive attitude will help. Why ignore the good parts of our city to only complain about the bad parts?

    • First off, Im assuming your’re a teacher, but your spelling and sentence structure is C- at best. Secondly, we all know that in Contra Costa Schools teachers need to be careful giving referrals out, especially to black kids. This was due to the higher ratio of black kids getting in trouble and the parents pulling the race card. I know 10 + teachers in the County and they all say the same thing, school officials say it with out saying it. Of course there are good kids that go there, but there also is alot of shitheads that go there. So lets be honest about this topic.

  9. First rule of internet trolling: don’t make the same mistake you accuse others of making especially when being a grammar Nazi.

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